Turn-taking in the broad sense and in the narrow sense

Recent work on animal interaction uses the term ‘turn-taking’ to refer to alternation of signalling among conspecifics where interactants avoid overlap. This can be termed ‘turn-taking in the broad sense’ (TTB). This broad notion of turn-taking seldom considers the explicit defining rules of human turn-taking discovered and described in the field of conversation analysis. By contrast, turn-taking in the narrow sense (TTN) has more specific properties, the most important of which relate to flexibility in recipient selection, unfixed and recursively complex internal structure of turns, and the possibility of carrying out interactive repair across turns.

This distinction can serve as a conceptual anchoring point in comparative work. Without it, we risk making unwarranted inferences about one form of turn-taking (e.g. TTB) by carrying over assumptions based on another (e.g., TTN). For instance, while some work on animal communication loosely speaks of ‘turn-taking rules’ (and so invites comparison to the socially normative rules of human interaction), this tends to refer merely to the avoidance of overlap that characterizes TTN, not the intricate, socially normative rules of overlap resolution and turn allocation seen in TTN.

Dingemanse, M., & Enfield, N. J. (2024). Interactive repair and the foundations of language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 28(1), 30–42. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2023.09.003 PDF